If you haven’t heard of League of Legends or #Worlds, where have you been for the last six years?
League of Legends is one of the largest online, multiplayer, real-time strategy games played by more than 67 million people around the world each month, and this year Europe was lucky enough to host the League of Legends 2015 World Championship.
Launched in 2009 by Riot Games, League of Legends pits teams of champions against one another in order to conquer and destroy the opposing team’s base, referred to as the "Nexus". Sounds simple, right? Each champion has a unique set of abilities and attributes, which increase with experience, and each base is protected by defensive structures that can wipe out a character in a single blast.
Gaming is now the biggest and most lucrative form of entertainment, surpassing the music and movie industries, and Coca-Cola is no newbie in the arena. A sponsor of League of Legends since 2013, Coke has played a big part in helping fans get closer to the action, such as organising viewing parties in cinemas across Europe, where theatres project the matches live on big screens to hundreds of viewers at a time.
The four-day Quarterfinals were held in October at Wembley’s SSE Arena in London, where the eight teams who made it through the Group Stages in Paris battled it out in a best-of-five match format, before advancing to the Semifinals in Brussels. Fans from all over the world came to watch the tournament, and many took part in some serious cosplay, which is the practice of going above and beyond to dress up as a character from the game.
As with any championship there’s a prize, and the reward for winning the fifth League of Legends World Championship isn’t something to be sniffed at. A prize pool of $2,000,000 was split between the 16 competing teams, which consisted of professional players from across Europe, North America, China, Korea and Southeast Asia. But only the team who reached first place, SKTelecom T1, from Korea, got their hands on the game’s most coveted possession, the Summoner’s Cup.
eSports, a term used to describe competitive gameplay, has grown in popularity over the years too. From the infrastructure of the leagues to how the rules are set, and the gaming houses where teams live in and practice together for up to 12 hours a day. It also happens to be one of the fastest growing sectors of the industry, and in 2013 the US Citizenship and Immigration Services officially recognised League of Legends pro-players as professional athletes. Coca-Cola recently partnered with gaming site IGN to launch eSports Weekly, an online show dedicated to the topic.
Like with any professional sport, teams have coaches, analysts, nutritionists and sports psychologists to aid them, and the players are allowed to warm-up and test their equipment before the match begins. There’s also a great deal of competitive integrity with players adamant about using their own keyboards and mice, and headphones are worn to block out the sound of commentators, the audience and to enable communication with teammates.
Slideshow: League of Legends 2015 World Championship
Throughout the League of Legends 2015 World Championship each of the games were made available to watch for free via live streaming, appealing to the international and inclusive nature of the game. The pace and passion of the coverage closely resembles that of a Premier League football match, a style Riot Games have achieved by appointing a broadcast team who have worked across more traditional sports such as the Olympic Games.
This year’s Final took place on October 31 at the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin, and more than 12,000 fans turned up to watch the nail-biting match. Watch some of the highlights, and find out more about League of Legends here: http://worlds.lolesports.com